Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Winston Smith called on the business sector to invest in the infrastructure of schools on the island, instead of making one-time contributions for publicity purposes.
Pointing out that the funds provided by the government to the Department for Education and Youth in its annual budget are not sufficient to meet the needs of schools, Smith said that additional funds and other forms of support for institutions often have to come from elsewhere.
It is in this context that he said members of the business sector should make education a high priority in light of the push for further economic growth nationwide.
“We have to stimulate investment, we have to stimulate the growth of our economy, but how can we have growth in an economy when our population is not educated and the educated people leave the coasts because they frustrated with the system? asked Smith.
He was the guest speaker at a recent Lions Club of Kingston virtual meeting, where an in-person update on the state of schools since reopening was given.
“We have to stop and think,” Smith told the nation’s business community.
“Make education the number one priority, and when I say make it the priority, I call on all right-thinking businessmen and women in Jamaica to join us in a comprehensive way – not an unenthusiastic peace meal, “Ah, when I want some publicity and want my business on TV, I donate a single laptop to a school.”
“…And we had a big publicity and a shot, that if you had to pay for publicity, you couldn’t afford it. So because you want free publicity, you give to a school one small laptop that doesn’t even have decent memory space, but those who watch TV and see all the glamor of it, don’t know that,” the JTA Chairman said.
He said it was time for companies “to stop using education as a marketing tool to promote their businesses, but to see it as a tool to help schools grow”.
One way to help schools achieve this goal is for businesses to adopt an educational institution, Smith proposed.
“Get on board and adopt a school, and I’m not talking about (paying) a salary – (I’m talking about) going to some schools and setting up a science lab, (or) fixing it.
“You may not be able to do it alone, but use your connections. As business people, you have connections. There are a lot of people who will say, ‘Okay, I can’t help you. give the money to build the lab, but I have machines, and I could allow you to use these machines for a while,” he suggested.
Giving another example, the JTA President said that some schools need to be paved over and there are businessmen who own construction and asphalt companies who can help with these efforts.
“(It’s time to) remove derelict buildings and replace them with world-class, world-class facilities,” Smith said.
He expressed confidence that in the long term, entities that decide to help more schools will get returns on their investments by having a skilled workforce in the future.